Garage sales hold place in the market

BARGAIN HUNTER: Kath Dibnah, 80, who has been doing the rounds for 30 years bags some more toys for the grandkids.
BARGAIN HUNTER: Kath Dibnah, 80, who has been doing the rounds for 30 years bags some more toys for the grandkids.

In the age of the internet one would think that garage sales are on the way out but as ANNA PEARSON discovers, diehard bargain hunters are keeping the tradition alive.

It's Saturday morning, and Shirley* is having a garage sale. She advertised it for 11am. The first lady - tall, jeaned and short-haired - arrives early and storms in. She's looking for vinyl records.

Shirley freaks out and closes the front gate. Vinyl Lady keeps rummaging. Shirley is still setting up and panic starts to set in.

More people come. Like attracts like. The big hand hits 11 and the gate opens. The garage salers walk/run down the tarseal driveway. It's terrifying. But 10 minutes later, they're gone.

Garage sales are nothing new. But despite an increasingly-online marketplace, bargain hunters continue to scan The Weekend Press for their next target.

For Kath Dibnah, it started with a baby seat. Her weekend habits are now well entrenched.

This morning, she's at Cameron McKay's garage sale in Queenspark.

The 80-year-old goes nearly every weekend, usually on the hunt for items her children and grandchildren want.

Today, it's toys for her grandson. There's a plastic dinosaur tail poking out of the cardboard box she is carrying.

Trade Me spokesman Jeff Hunkin says there has been an "undeniable shift" in New Zealand to shopping online and instant gratification.

"Websites like Trade Me make it a heck of a lot easier for people to sell their stuff without the added hassle of mowing the lawn and sticking cardboard signs on nearby lamp posts," he says.

"In saying this, we reckon there will always be a nostalgic element to garage sale culture."

Jason Holliday of W. Holliday & Sons Ltd in Papanui Rd says garage sales are the realm of second-hand traders rather than antiques dealers.

"It's not something that normal dealers would do. It's just not the kind of stock that we are after," he says.

Tim Clyne, a second-hand dealer at Etcetera Etcetera in Edgeware Rd, uses words like "yield" and "methodology" to describe his approach to garage sales.

"You pick out key words or phrases [in classified ads]. Obviously a deceased estate is like bees to a honey pot," he says.

Clyne says garage sales are second-hand dealers' "bread and butter" and he goes most weekends. He has done so for 30 years.

"There is a certain amount of professional courtesy or recognition among the regulars," he says. "It gets the adrenalin running . . . I bought a painting for 10 cents and I sold it four days later for $2500. There are lawyers, police and multi-millionaires that go to garage sales. It's a great New Zealand pastime."

Shirley has never had a garage sale before, and needs to be reminded of the aim - to get rid of clutter, not to make a fortune. She tries to sell an old freezer for $100. It sells for $50.

"People bargain - even when the price is low. And they can be rude," she says.

In Ranfurly St in St Albans, Amanda Cartridge is getting ready for her garage sale, when three men arrive early.

"We said, 'No earlier' in the ad," says Cartridge.

It's not supposed to kick off until 9am.

Too bad.

A guy comes running down the driveway.

"Attack!" He actually says that.

"Some of them are pretty mercenary," says Cartridge.

Carol McBrearty, in her 60s, snaps up a bargain a few hours later - a box of wine glasses for $5.

She says a friend of hers, in his 80s, is even keener.

"He has got [his garage sale schedule] all worked out on a Friday . . . in his book."


The Trader: You won't know what's hit you. They'll scan the scene and have armfuls of bargains within minutes or leave muttering and empty handed.

The Hobbyist: You name it, they're collecting it. Or it's just their regular weekend outing.

The Mum and Dad: Something to do - better than the mall. The kids will find something they want - usually shiny, and beg for some pocket money.

The Sticky Beak: They have got a couple of spare minutes and coins jangling in their pocket. They will probably leave with something unnecessary but at least they're happy.


Private sales, including garage sales, are not covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 or the Fair Trading Act 1986. There may be, however, some protections available under the Contractual Remedies Act 1979.

* Name changed.

The Press